Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 47e Cahier, 6e Figure

This English Beauty chilled by the poverty that she meets in Paris, but throwing a proud air, an indifferent regard over the beauties she sees in droves at the Palais Royal, walks with a tone of majesty dressed in a large winter pelisse made of satin trimmed with sable with a long gown with double trims and a long-haired muff. (1785)

"Women coiffed à l'ingénue wear a straw hat whose edge is trimmed with a violet ribbon; the crown is high, à l'anglaise, trimmed with violet gauze; a pearl pin in the front; a bow or cockade on the back, whose ends, about two or three inches long, are hanging; on the hat, on the left side, a cluster of four white plumes, surmounted by a large violet plume, called a follette; on the neck, a cord in the form of a necklace at the end of which hangs a medallion."

Journal général de France, 6 December 1785 (later the Cabinet des Modes)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 47e Cahier, 5e Figure

Woman of quality, recently up from her bed,* walking at noon to take the air: the first fruit of a happy marriage makes all her occupation, and augurs a lasting happiness: she is in a large satin pelisse lined and trimmed with sable in two rows, her head is enveloped in a Thérèse of plain taffeta. (1785)

The New Accouchée.** - "... The new mother of the capital lacks the most interesting charm which gives to her state a most respectable air: the child in its bassinet and waiting for its first nourishment from the maternal breast.  For a time, women have fed their own children: but this was only a fashion, it has passed.  Life in Paris will always be an obstacle to the accomplishment of this sacred task.  I have remarked that nobody dared to speak of the newborn to the father nor the mother."

SEBASTIEN MERCIER, Tableau de Paris, 1783

* The amount of shift sleeve showing (and the time of day) reminds me of the demi-polonaise, and I have to wonder if she is wearing a petticoat and not a gown beneath the pelisse.
** A woman who has very recently given birth.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Myth of Chanel and the 1920s: V - Outdated Old Masters

The subsequent single-page spread devoted to Madame Lucile's chiffons and to Poiret's plumes seemed to be included simply out of respect for the old masters and appeared fearfully outdated.
This part of the Chanel myth breaks down into two ideas: that pre-1919 looks appeared outdated compared to Chanel, and that the top designers of the 1910s were suddenly displaced.
Harper's Bazaar, May 1922, p. 78; a selection of fashionable and typical Poiret frocks
The latter myth was mainly dealt with in II (Standing Out from the Crowd) and IV (The Sole Survivors).  The post-war designers were, in the main, the pre-war designers.  Lucile and Poiret are nearly always (if not actually always) the go-to examples to show Chanel's superiority, but as was previously discussed, Poiret had always been strongly in favor of simplicity and plain cuts, and Lucile's exit from her house stemmed from legal issues rather than becoming obsolete.  Paquin, Callot, and Jenny boomed over this period, achieving far greater success than Chanel in the late 1910s and early '20s.  The narrative of a single young woman standing up to an antique establishment is attractive but does not fit the facts (especially as Gabrielle Chanel was 36 in 1919 and Paul Poiret was 40).

Fashion plate from L'art decoratif, 1912; NYPL 816894
As was mentioned in part I (A Sea Change), there was a continuity in fashion from 1910 to 1920, with no abrupt breaks.  Probably because most period films of the era are costumed in it, Directoire fashions are seen as the style most emblematic of the 1910s, but they were really only typical of the first half of the decade.  In 1913 and 1914, flared knee-length overskirts were added to the narrow silhouette, paving the way for the entire skirt to be flared in 1915.  At this time, the waist began to drop, hitting the natural level and creating an hourglass silhouette at the same time as a loose-waisted look was developed.

Advertisement, Harper's Bazaar, September, 1917; NYPL 816925
Fashionable dresses of the war years were a clear step to those of the period after.  The dropped waistline, the straight bodice, the simple closure (even the "slip-over dress") - these are all the key points of post-war fashion, and they were all in evidence before Chanel's alleged revolution.  It is difficult to believe that Chanel's elegant little number would make such a contrast with the standard fashions of 1919, because fashion flowed quite naturally from the 1910s to the 1920s.

Lord & Taylor advertisement, Vogue, September 1918; NYPL 816926
Photograph, Joseph, January 1921; NYPL 817146
And a final note.  Floating chiffon layers were part of those Directoire styles that are thought of as emblematic of the 1910s, but they declined in popularity after 1914.  During the war years, they turned up in a more subduedless noticeable way - even when used by Lucile.  And it must also be noted that highly fashionable dresses of the early 1920s also made use of chiffon, with dozens of chiffon gowns in the issues of Harper's Bazaar of 1922.  The way chiffon was used changed over time, as the overall silhouette did: "Madame Lucile's chiffons" would most likely have not appeared outdated to the readers of the issue of Vogue that Nicholson is referring to.  When examining historical sources, it is important to leave preconceptions behind, and not to assume that the strong divisions between "modern" and "old-fashioned" we perceive necessarily existed for those sources' contemporaries.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 47e Cahier, 4e Figure

The beautiful and tender woman from Lyons, forgetting everything in order to reflect only on her lover, announces by her bearing how much her heart is worried by his absence as she seems to pay no attention to the tumult at the Palais-Royal where she is found: she is coiffed with a hat à la Almaviva,* morning gown and satin mantelet bordered with white fur. (1785)

Palais-Royal. - "A unique point on the globe.  Visit London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Vienna, you will see nothing to match it: a prisoner could live there without boredom, and only consider freedom at the end of several years ... It is called the capital of Paris.  Everything is found there; but set a young man of twenty years there, with fifty thousand livres a year, he would want no more, he could no longer go out of this place of faerie; he would become a Renaud in this palace of Armide; and if this hero lost his time there and almost his glory, our young man will lose his health, and maybe his fortune: it is only there that he could play henceforth; everywhere else he would become bored.  This enchanted sojourn is a little luxurious city, enclosed in a large one: it is the temple of the voluptue, where the brilliant vices have banned even the ghost of modesty: there is no tavern in the world more graciously depraved; one laughs there, and it is innocence which still blushes."

S. MERCIER, Tableau de Paris, 1783

* Count Almaviva is Figaro's employer, who is trying to seduce Suzanne, Figaro's bride-to-be.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 47e Cahier, 3e Figure

Pretty Woman walking alone in her garden to avoid all dissipations, she engages herself entirely with sweet ideas that pleasure presents to her; this makes these flattering images which render her an agreeable solitude: she is coiffed with a hat called à la Charlotte; over her long gown she has a pelisse lined with fur with a gauze apron. (1785)

"Women's actual outfits, in Paris. - The gowns and fourreaux à l'Anglaise, à la Turque, à la Janseniste,* à la Circassienne, are still in fashion.  When a Lady is in a green fourreau, à la levite, she wears a straw hat with a high crown, trimmed with a violet ribbon, with a cockade bow, the two ends of the ribbon hanging about two or three inches.

"Her coiffure is a half-herisson, ended by two hanging curls; the hair hanging behind the ears, à la conselliere: the earrings are large, trembling rings; the kerchief, of trimmed linen; the mantelet of black satin, spotted; the apron of linen; petticoat of violet satin; white shoes, with violet rosettes."

Journal general de France, 6 December 1785 (later the Cabinet des Modes)

* Jansenism, originating in the 17th century, was a flavor of Christianity similar to Calvinism.  By the 1780s it had mostly died out as a sect.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 48e Cahier, 1ere Figure

Grand coiffure and outfit à la Caravanne: new Costume which was shown in the Opera of the same name. (1785)

"The Caravan of Cairo, an opera in three acts, shown for the first time at the theater of the Court on October 30, is the second work after Didon which had been a decided success.  The words are by M. Morel and the music by our charming Grêtry ... One has criticized the plan of the poem: one has reproached him that the interest of the action was too much suspended, nearly nothing in the second act; the style seems in general more négligé, sometimes even in a bad tone: but all the enthusiasm which inspired the opera of Didon has not prevented us from finding in the music of this one much freshness, grace, and sensibility."

Correspondence littéraire, October 1783

Galerie des Modes, 47e Cahier, 2e Figure

The brilliant Raimonde, after dinner, makes a round of the Jardin du Luxembourg, persuaded that she will not fail to meet the one who is the slave of her beauty before long: she is coiffed with a hat à la Figaro with a pelisse lined with sable and a gauze apron trimmed à la Panurge. (1785)

Panurge on the Isle of Lanterns,* an opera-comedy in three acts and in verse, words by the comte de Provence and Morel de Chedeville, music by Grêtry, performed at the Opera on January 25, 1785.  While the Journal de Paris announces that it was strongly applauded, and judges that Grêtry had not yet produced a work "where there was as much musical richness set more properly relative to the spirit of the situation and to the personalities of the characters" and extols "the rich costumes and brilliant decorations", the Journal general calls "Panurge" a "lyrical bagatelle.  The poetry," it adds, "is of a stunning weakness.  The character of Panurge promises pleasantry: it is a sort of Sancho Panza ... The plot is common ... With regard to the music, the overture is agreeable and promises much; there are several airs where one recognizes the talent of the celebrated musician; some reminiscences; very pretty ballets ..."

* The story of Panurge and the Isle of the Lanterns was originally from the fifth book of Rabelais's History of Gargantua and Pantagruel, and is described in an issue of the Pennsylvania Museum's Bulletin.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 47e Cahier, 1ere Figure

The Nymph of slight size, with the appearance of going out alone to winter herself in a public promenade, throws her eyes from side to side to find someone who could give her some new charm and prevent boredom from seizing her.  She is in a hat à la Cherubin* and a morning dress with a white muff of Siberian sheeps' wool. (1785)

"Angora muffs. - These muffs are made with the Beard of goats from Angora, the country where these animals have been for a long time, silky and overall very white; that which is used for men's muffs is of a great beauty.  The price is 120 or 100 livres.  One has them even for 4 louis or 84 livres."

Notice de l'Almanach sous verre, 1786

* Cherubino is the flirtatious page of Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 6e Figure

The young indifferent woman, after having carried despair into the heart of her lover, and made him feel her cruelty to the folly of adorers who obsess over moments without ceasing, walks with no inquietude, coiffed à la Cherubin, having a mantelet à la Circassienne, a muslin gown with a gauze apron. (1785)

"Plain satins for gowns. - Violet and grape-green, mixed, glazed; violet and marigold, mixed, glazed; green and marigold, mixed, glazed; grape-green, plain; cashmere, plain.

"Gauzes, of Italy, à la d'Artois, à la crème, anglaise, puffed."

Journal général de France, 6 December 1785 (later the Galerie des Modes)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Myth of Chanel and the 1920s: IV - The Sole Survivors

One other French designer, Madeleine Vionnet, managed to survive the transition through the war years and become part of the revolution in fashion.
The unfortunate truth is that Chanel and Vionnet have come through history with somewhat undeserved reputations.  They are remembered, and are therefore considered to have been the leading two couturiers - because why would they be the only two well-remembered designers of the 1920s if they weren't at the top of the game?  But the idea is easily refuted with a little research.

"Longchamp (II), or, She's lost!", Gazette du Bon Ton, 1915; NYPL 824772
(Speaking of research - I keep going back and forth over whether or not I should cite sources. It's more professional to do so, but then, the purpose of citations is to let readers view your sources for themselves.  In an online format, however, a link to the exact page I would have cited streamlines the text and lets the reader skip a step in the process.  So please do click the links for published, academic information on these topics!)

The following is a list of couture houses that survived WWI.  I was going to write it out in prose, but it's lengthy, and perhaps makes the point better this way.  The list is not complete - there are a number of fashion houses of the 1920s that I simply cannot find enough information on to present here.


Doucet (1871-1929, Jacques Doucet's death; merged with Doeuillet; Drécoll-Doeuillet closed in the 1930s)
Redfern (1871, inclusion of women's dress-1932)
Worth (1871-1956)
Paquin (1891-1956)
Lucile (1894-1922, end of Lady Duff Gordon's association with house; Lucile closed soon after)
Callot Soeurs (1895-1939)
Drécoll (1896 (Vienna), 1902 (Paris)-1930, merged with Beer; 1931, merged with Agnes)
Agnes (1898-1931, merged with Drécoll)
Boué Soeurs (1899-1937, re-opened, closed again in 1950s)
Doeuillet (1900-1928, his death; merged with Drécoll)
Poiret (1903-1929)
Beer (1905-1929 – merged with Drécoll)
Chéruit (1906-1935)
Jenny (1908/1911-1938)
Lanvin (1909-)
Patou (1910 (as Maison Parry)-1987)
Premet (1911-1931)
Vionnet (1912-1939)
Chanel (1913-)

Surviving the first war was not easy.  Poiret is known as one house that suffered greatly from it: Paul Poiret put fashion on hold to design for the military, which had a noticeable effect on his family's finances, and was attacked for his connections to the Austrian Wiener Werkstätte artistic community.  The story of his fall - how he was unable to cope with the changed times after the war - is legendary, but when one considers that Maison Poiret didn't close until 1929, a full decade after the end of the war, the story has to be made less extreme; a more gradual downfall, a more modest lack of success.

Postcard from Biarritz, ca. 1905; eBay
Chanel's own success during the war can be largely attributed to the fact that, at that time, she was based in Deauville and Biarritz - resort towns - rather than solely war-torn Paris.  Biarritz was an especially profitable place for a high-end designer as it was situated near neutral Spain, assuring her a wealthy tourist clientele, and apparently hosted no real competition in her market.

The end of the 1920s proved to be a difficult time for several top couturiers.  Doucet, Redfern, Drécoll, Agnes, Doeuillet, Beer, Poiret, and Premet all closed or merged around the time of the disastrous stock market crash that affected the world's economy.  The luxury market did not completely implode, but customers were in shorter supply than they had previously been, increasing competition.  This would be a much more appropriate setting for a narrative about the true merits and timeliness of various designers determining their success (although, as with the more common narrative, it would still not be entirely accurate - the ages and years of retirement/death of the original driving forces behind these houses also plays a part.)  A second round of these long-lasting houses were culled with or shortly before the outbreak of World War II: Callot Soeurs, Boué Soeurs, Vionnet, Chéruit.  (Many of the fashion houses, including Chanel, shut down during the course of the war, but these did not re-open.)

"Callot patterns her gowns with traceries of the Italian Renaissance", Harper's Bazaar, Nov. 1922
Gabrielle Chanel's real accomplishment, then, was outlasting the second world war - but as this survival is far less flattering to her, it frequently is ignored. It is a fact that she engaged in a romantic affair with Hans Gunther von Dincklage, a German officer and spy; her actual political sympathies are less certain. She did take advantage of the Nazi occupation in her fight with the Jewish directors of her perfume house, which is reprehensible. There is evidence that she herself was actually a spy, running missions to Madrid and Germany and writing letters to Churchill ... in order to bring about the release of friends and relations and a peace, respectively. She was not a true believer in the cause, but her actions have been unjustly drowned out by the glow of her reputation. Chanel used her connections to keep herself living in excessive style at the Ritz with very high ranking Nazi officers while the rest of France suffered, then used different connections to bury the truth after the war ended.

If the story of how Gabrielle Chanel managed to remain comfortable and in business were fully known and considered as part of the reason for her success, I believe it would rankle less with me - but the way that Chanel's story is presented as "she emerged from the shambles of the fashion world after World War One, fully formed as a wildly successful couturier entirely on the basis of her skills" is rather insulting to the designers who did not collaborate with Nazis for their own benefit.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 5e Figure

The galante Nymph, whose deportment is majestic, noble, and proud, running with tranquility to the Palais Royale, the hazards to which the people of her sex are exposed: she has a cap à la Richard, striped corset, and is dressed in a robe à la Chinoise, pulled up. (1785)

"... Oh God! the time and lost expense if it were necessary to abandon the current fashions!  It took several years of reflection, of work, and of experience to perfect them, and you would like us to fall back into barbarism and bad taste!  Ungrateful men, know that it is only for your pleasure that we have changed our manner of dressing.  The coqs are flattering to people with low foreheads, they seem made by the hands of Fairies, they are so adroitly worked; our hair, brought back over our cheeks, hides those which are flat; our curls are in the Roman style, and as they might tarnish diamond earrings, we have substituted little gold chains, which produce a good effect; our fourreaux fall away from the figure which was, so to speak, boxed in by the antique gowns; our magisterial tresses are often better made than those belonging to the ones with the right to wear them; our hats protect our color; the culs de Paris, though joked about, prevent us from seeming too flat; finally, our pleated chemises have galant pleats, and we are made to look like the vestals of antiquity ..."

Journal général de France (later les Affiches de Nantes) 18 July 1786

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 4e Figure

Young Lady, aimless in appearance, having a tender air, in a public promenade, of the signals that announce what reduces her leisures and daily occupations: her coiffure is a hat à la Minerve and a pulled-up taffeta gown. (1785)

" ... In effect, added my father, despite the estimation that I have for Ladies and the fondness that I have for you, I cannot refrain from criticizing their coiffures and yours: it is, in my opinion, entirely disagreeable and the most attractive face in the world would be disgraced by it.  One hardly sees your forehead: your hair offends your eyes and seems to make you squint; your cheeks are shaded and the curls which accompany them render your face square: on the rest I may be wrong; it is necessary that everything be beautiful, since one suffers it without finding to reduce it.

"My lover stood aside to let my father leave and added further on this beautiful critique.  He told me obligingly that he only found me pretty, and that the new fashion made all the other women ugly; that they rather resembled lapdogs whose front hair falls over their eyes; that their hats must be used as parasols to protect them from the sun; that in seeing their hair hanging to the belts of their skirts, he would have taken them for young Lawyers; finally, that among the Ladies he had seen one en chemise who went without a doubt to bed in place of attending the wedding ..."

Journal général de France (later les Affiches de Nantes), 18 July 1786

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 3e Figure

The Beauty, despairing of the infidelity of her lover who swore to her an inviolable love, announces by her sadness that this affront has been very sore for her, making herself swear nevermore to allow her heart to be overtaken in the future: she is coiffed à la Nicolet* and dressed in a gauze fourreau** with a striped belt. (1785)

"The freshest ribbons. - Canary or soft sulfur color striped in three colors, namely: canary tail, grape-green, and bishop's violet; solid grape-green; bishop's violet."

Journal général de France, 6 December 1785 (later le Cabinet des Modes)

* Refers to a famous actor who eventually started his own theater.
** A completely new usage of fourreau, apparently unrelated to either back pleats or children's back-closing garments.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 2e Figure

The young adolescent whose heart is occupied by love under the traits of the charming Lindor, searches to dissipate the ennui that must be caused to her by the absence of her love, in returning to captivity the object of her caprice: she is coiffed à l'enfant, trimmed robe anglaise. (1785)

"General character of the Girls and Women of Paris. - There are light, frivolous, flirtatious; never has a solid idea entered their heads; they give an equal importance to everything which is a production of the arts: everything that makes money or costs it.  To the eyes of a Parisian woman, a florist, a feather-merchant are men as useful as the agriculturist; the prejudice of rank is almost nothing to her eyes ...

"The women of Paris are rarely insolent; she is familiar with her servants and speaks well to them ... They are flirtatious, but this is not a defect of their hearts, it is the inconvenience of their position, in an immense population, surrounded by men without women, men with a superior talent or an elevated rank, who can satisfy vanity or make a fortune.  They desire to please everyone, but when once they have untangled the object which suits them, that they are solidly fixed on, one sees many becoming as faithful and more devoted than the women in the Province.  They are eager for adornment: but that stems from their desire for pleasure, a legitimate sentiment in itself as it is natural."

RESTIF DE LA BRETONNE, Les Parisiennes, t. 1, 1785

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Myth of Chanel and the 1920s: III - A Slender Pair of Shoulder Straps

The editorial commended Chanel's reliance on an uncluttered natural beauty, with a dress that showed only a slender pair of shoulder straps holding it up.

The way that this is written, there is an implication of the slender pair of shoulder straps being part of an innovative uncluttered beauty.  However, bared arms and shoulders had been part of ball dress (the most formal evening dress) for a long time.
From Le Moniteur de la Mode, February 1855
At first this was achieved with very short sleeves and a broad, low neckline, as the armscye was commonly placed on the upper arm; as the armscye moved up to the top of the shoulder, the sides of the neckline moved as well, exposing the arm to a greater extent.

Ball dresses, The Woman's World, 1890, p. 131
The shoulder straps of these gowns were usually constructed in one with the bodice, but one can also find examples of delicate, applied shoulder straps.  These delicate straps became even more common in the 1910s - often accompanied by gauzy and short undersleeves, making Vogue's caption simply a description of which type of straps Chanel's dress had, rather than a statement of a new innovation in evening dress.

Evening dress, unknown designer, "Couturiers design for afternoon and evening", Vogue, November 1916; NYPL 818456
No designer is completely one-note - if they were, their houses would not remain in business.  So while Chanel is known today for this "uncluttered natural beauty", Harper's Bazaar also pointed out in 1922 that "Chanel has made the mode curiously rich", and that "this season, the Chanel collection is characterized by intricate and costly embroideries that spread themselves over gowns and wraps".  At the same time, designers had been aiming for a more "natural", simple look from the end of the 1900s - this could take up its own post, really, so it must suffice to point to Poiret's "1811" designs.

The statement that one of Chanel's 1919 models had an "uncluttered natural beauty" is clearly factual.  I am not debating its accuracy for that specific dress.  Nicholson's implication, however, is that this is significant to Chanel's overall taste and the reasons for her success, an early predictor of what she would become known for and how she would triumph.  This is the common (yet inaccurate) view of Chanel: that she burst onto the scene with a newfound simplicity in all her designs that made her an instant success.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 46e Cahier, 1ere Figure

The beauty, engaged by the touching discourse and tender felicitations of an amiable and still more affected Seducer, seeing a casket full of jewels which he presents to her, is ready to surrender herself; her heart wavers between love, interest, and virtue: she is coiffed in a chapeau à la Henri IV, and dressed in a robe à la Marguerite.* (1785)

As one has observed in many plates of the Galerie des Modes, from the advent of the reign of Louis XVI the fashions of the time of Henri IV strove to come back into favor; the movement corresponded to a general sympathy for the good king, that one found confirmed in a thousand ways, especially in the theatre.  In 1774, at the same time as The Hunting Party of Henri IV, The Battle of Ivry was shown.  "This is," wrote Grimm, "the adoration which inspires the sole name of Henri IV, this is the hope with which the new reign has filled our hearts, that we find there is a so keen and so touching interest.  It seems that the virtues of our pious monarch consecrate these offered homages to the memory of the father of the Bourbons.  And is it not enough to render worth to him?  This manner of encouraging and sustaining the arts is worth, without a doubt, many others."

Correspondance litteraire, 1774

* Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615), the wife of Henri IV.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

... And This Time It's Personal

I really dislike making this post, but I'm trying to convince myself that it's not that bad.

Here's a creepy picture from an 1861 Godey's to distract you from my awkwardness


My life has been tricky lately.  I'm on a long-term temp assignment while trying to find permanent employment.  I'm living at home, but have to move out fairly soon due to Reasons, and so I'm trying to make the new permanent (or semi-permanent, or temporary - I'm not too picky) employment be in the same general area as new lodgings, and all that to be in the same area as some museums, so I can volunteer without having to spend lots more on gas - extensive volunteering being pretty much a necessary step in getting a job in museums, as entry level positions are rare.  I recently had to spend a chunk of change replacing the brake rotors on my car, which was very sad but I was all stoic about it, standing up to adversity etc.  But now the CMOS battery in my laptop, which has been going for a long time (it regulates the computer's battery and clock, so when it's dying it can make the laptop a) shut off when the battery's three-quarters full and b) think it's January 1, 1600 when it comes back on, which really screws with a lot of programs), is truly dead.  The internet led me to believe that I could replace it myself, as it's basically a watch battery, but it turns out that's only true of new computers, and when you buy the cheaper-because-they've-just-become-obsolete lines you run into troubles like this.  Nope, it's soldered to the underside of the motherboard, and the only way to replace it is to get a new motherboard, which costs as much as a computer anyway.  (Which, in the cheaper-because-they've-just-become-obsolete lines, costs as much as brake rotors!)

So - what am I trying to say.  I don't want anyone to feel like I'm pressuring them.  I'm on an hourly wage but I do make more than the minimum; I have money saved up in the bank and I'm not choosing between a computer and food or gas or rent; I will be buying a computer regardless of all this, because I need one and the old family desktop on an end table is not cutting it and doesn't have what I need on it.  I'm especially not holding blog posts or my ~future pattern books~ hostage - I've gotten the important stuff (= fashion plates and half-finished fantasy/historical novels) off my computer, anyway, so I can keep posting the plates even after I run through this buffer I'm working on.

I would love to go all out and make lots of great things to sell to help defray this cost, but unfortunately my job tends to siphon away my energy and make it hard to sit down and hand-sew chemisettes on spec, let alone the sewing that I've previously committed to.  All I can put in my Etsy shop are a couple of already-made white cotton things, some of the same as custom orders, and a larger number of antique/vintage books, with more of the latter going up tomorrow/this weekend.  I can't bring myself to ask for straight-up PayPal donations when I'm not in actual dire straits - but if you want to help me out a little, I can give you a book you're probably not interested in in return.  Or a chemisette/pair of ruffles, if you're willing to wait a bit.

Galerie des Modes, 45e Cahier, 6e Figure

The amiable Céphise in a solitary place plunged in a crowd of reflections caused by the absence of that which her heart loved: she is dressed in a light morning gown and coiffed with a large cap called à la Charlotte.* (1785)

Shoes. - "The woman wears on her feet shoes with flat heels, of taffeta in a color matching the gown.  This practice is still not changed.  One wears shoes of a stuff similar to that of the gown.  It is not however forbidden to vary the color."

Le Magasin des Modes, 15 July 1786

* It is interesting to compare the Charlotte cap with the Charlotte hat - both have enormous puffed crowns.  It could possibly be named for Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), although there is no connection that I can see; because of the puffiness I would have also suggested the type of dessert, but it was not invented until the 19th century.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 45e Cahier, 5e Figure

The proud Aglaé outraged to the bottom of her soul at the apparent infidelity of her lover, indicating it to him by overwhelming him with reproaches, the time and the place of a mysterious rendez-vous: she is dressed in a chemise à la Jesus, having an elegant hat à la Française, and plumes above it with a ribbon à l'inoculation. (1785)

Here is how in her statement Miss Le Guay d'Oliva* detailed the toilette she wore, when, as she claimed, she was made to look like Marie-Antoinette, at the beginning of August 1784, around the time of the famous affair of the Necklace:

"The lady de La Motte, the pretended countess of Valois, busied herself with my toilette; it was she herself who wanted to dress me; it was she herself who dressed me.  I was put in a white gown of spotted linen.  It was, as far as I an remember, a robe à l'enfant, or a Gaule, a type of dress that is designated most often by the name of chemise, and it was wanted that I be coiffed in a demi-cap."

* The prostitute who was paid by the de la Mottes to pretend to be the queen in the gardens of Versailles in order to continue the deception of Cardinal Rohan.  Despite her profession and part in the affair, she was looked on sympathetically by the public and escaped with no punishment.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 45e Cahier, 4e Figure

As brilliant as Venus, the beautiful Dorine busies herself with what she read in a letter dictated by the keenest love; her gown is à la Marlborough, and her hat is à la Charlotte. (1785)

Accessories made by Mme Bertin for Mme Duchatelet. - "1785, 15 June: A hat topped with violet gauze, edged with a beautiful blonde lace; storms of the violet gauze in contrary pleats on the crown and knots of straw ribbons ... 78 livres.

"A yellow straw hat, lined with white taffeta with a pleated chemise of blue Florentine taffeta on the crown, two steel buckles on the taffeta, said hat held up at the side by a similar buckle: a panache of three plumes which were furnished ... 60 livres."

Dossiers Bertin, Doucet Library

Monday, July 8, 2013

Galerie des Modes, 45e Cahier, 3e Figure

The young and elegant Suzanne sending the response which she just made in a letter to keep her dear Figaro:* she is dressed in a caraco trimmed with muslin, the petticoat of the same with three rows of ruffles, and a Globe cap. (1785)

"The women who are coiffed en hérisson with little curls wear a cap à la Princesse of Italian gauze; a bouquet of flowers on the right side, over a tuft of hair; on the neck a simple ribbon necklace; the earrings en mirza,** trimmed linen kerchief; green satin fourreau."

Journal général de France, 5 December 1786 (later le Cabinet des Modes)

* Suzanne and Figaro are the characters involved in the titular act of The Marriage of Figaro.  Suzanne is the Countess's maid.
** "Mirza" is a title, indicating descent in the male line from the Persian Imperial Families.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Myth of Chanel and the 1920s: II - Standing Out from the Crowd

In November 1919 pictures of Gabrielle Chanel's chemise [evening] dress had filled the pages of Vogue ...
Unfortunately, unless I travel to the library at the Fashion Institute of Technology, there doesn't seem to be any way for me to examine the actual November 1919 issue of Vogue - only its cover is available online.  However, it seems extremely unlikely to me that there are literally pages of it devoted to Chanel.  Arrogant of me?  Perhaps.

In my studies, I have examined many periodicals and fashion plates both in person and online, and one thing that has stood out to me is that, while labeled Chanel designs do turn up here and there, they do not really become a force until the mid-1920s.  Even extant gowns with Chanel labels from before 1925 seem scarce-to-nonexistent in museum collections available online.  If she were really taking the fashion world by storm in November of 1919, why would she retreat afterward?

For example, the January 1922 issue of Good Housekeeping devotes several pages to fashion.  The first shows Premet and Jenny designs, and mentions both Jenny and Vionnet; the following show more Jenny, Paquin, Lelong, Patou, Germaine, and Alice Bernard garments.  Not a Chanel in sight.  February takes off with Patou, Lanvin, Paquin; March with Dorat, Alice Bernard, Goupy, Yteb, Paquin, Jenny, Lanvin, Drécoll ... and, at last, Chanel!

The May issue does show more Chanel: page 51 has three dress and suit designs, followed by an overblouse.  Coming back in June, Paul Caret takes center stage, followed by Lanvin, Drécoll, Paquin, Jenny, Rolande, and Germaine.  No Chanel.

Looking to another periodical, Harper's Bazaar, also in 1922, one finds similar results.  January starts off with several Chéruit ensembles for vacationers, followed by Renée, Worth, Yteb, Chanel, Jenny, a page for Lanvin, more Renée and Jenny, Lelong, Premet, and more Jenny.  Chanel's offering is a single sporty day dress.  Skipping up to March, Doucet's evening gowns top the first page, followed by Yteb, Molyneux, Jenny, Worth, Premet, Dorat, Patou, Madeleine & Madeleine, Lanvin, Lelong, Chéruit, and Soulie (a two-page spread), with most of these repeated several times.  Chanel is relatively rarely represented, although she does appear repeatedly through the whole volume and is praised.

from August, p. 51

Although skirts and waists daily grow longer here, Mademoiselle Chanel still remains a delightful exception. She clings to her short and narrow styles,* which she herself wears - how well, I hardly need say, as every one knows her, if only by sight. These suit her youthful type, especially as she generally relieves the extreme simplicity and girlishness of her appearance by adding many gorgeous strings of pearls of dazzling luster. Chanel has succeeded in making simplicity, costly simplicity, the keynote of the fashion of the day. (Caption to the previous image.)
* Note that Chanel's "short styles" are hardly what we would consider short -about two inches shorter than the fashionable 1922 length.

But the difficulty with fashion magazine text is that it praises everyone it mentions.  Taking a quote about one designer out of context makes it sound like the magazine has singled them out as the only one worthy of praise, when it really compliments each designer that is shown.  In May 1922, on a full page devoted to Callot Soeurs, the caption states:
We invariably look to Callot for the most exquisite of draped gowns, and, invariably, we are not disappointed.
Yet notes like these are ignored because nobody is looking to prove that Callot Soeurs changed the face of fashion or was the premier designer of an age.